(Published in December 2020 for the Work on Climate community)
Hi there! This guide was written by a mechanical engineer for current and prospective mechanical engineers interested in working on climate. This document is meant to be living 🌱 - please submit feedback and suggestions via this Google Form or directly contact Grace Li in the Work on Climate Slack!
I personally didn't realize how many opportunities there are for mechanical engineers in the climate sector until I actually started working as a mechanical engineer in the climate sector. I've compiled some tips and a list of climate tech companies that typically have openings for mechanical & hardware engineers. Hope you find this guide helpful in some small way! 🙂
If you are reading this guide through the WoCl community, chances are you've already been convinced that climate change is the most pressing problem of our generation. If so, please forge onward.
A question that I often hear is, "Should I first gain general mechanical engineering experience before transitioning to climate?" While it is definitely okay to transition to climate-related positions later in your career, the IPCC gave us a deadline in 2018: only ten years to nearly halve global carbon emissions to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming from preindustrial levels. If you want to eventually transition to climate, you should try to start sooner rather than later and ideally gain ME experience while working on hard, interesting problems in climate.
That being said, job searching is an understandably difficult process with luck and timing not always lining up. Fortunately, many of the jobs in the climate sector will not be going away anytime soon, and only increasing in demand and urgency.
As you'll soon see, there are a lot of opportunities for mechanical engineers in the climate sector. There is the typical handful of companies that everyone thinks of when you combine the keywords "mechanical engineering" and "climate", but I hope the following resources will help you expand your search horizons for positions that you may not have previously considered.
Climatebase (formerly Climate Careers) is currently the most comprehensive directory of companies whose work is in some way related to climate. A query for "mechanical engineering" or "hardware" will pull up a number of decent results, though combing through all of them can be a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. (There are worse problems than having too many job openings.)
Climatebase also has a newsletter with events, job postings, and climate-related news that you can sign up for on their website.
Terra.do offers online courses to gain a deeper understanding of climate change and climate action. They've also started organizing online job fairs, exclusively focused on jobs and careers in the climate space.
Look through the alumni companies of incubators and investors known for fostering climate companies in their portfolio, e.g. Greentown Labs, Cyclotron Road / Activate, Third Derivative, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, PRIME Coalition, Elemental Excelerator, Generate Capital, Lowercarbon Capital, Energy Impact Partners, Powerhouse Ventures, Urban Us, Prelude Ventures, At One Ventures, etc. Many exciting, but earlier-stage companies don't have their job opportunities posted on LinkedIn.